Fall-Off-The-Bone Tender: How to Cook Pork Rib Tips in a Crock Pot

Pork rib tips, also known as spare ribs, are a flavorful and inexpensive cut of meat from the lower portion of the pork ribs. Rib tips have more fat and cartilage compared to baby back ribs, giving them a wonderfully tender and juicy texture when cooked properly.

While grilling and smoking are popular ways to prepare rib tips, using a slow cooker or crock pot is hands down the easiest cooking method. The slow, moist heat perfectly tenderizes the ribs over several hours, resulting in ribs so succulent they slide right off the bone.

Here we’ll walk through how to make meltingly tender crockpot rib tips from start to finish. With just a few simple ingredients and steps you’ll have finger-licking barbecue ready for any weeknight dinner or backyard gathering.

Benefits of Cooking Rib Tips in a Crock Pot

There are several advantages to using a crock pot or slow cooker for rib tips:

  • Requires minimal prep and is incredibly easy – simply season and set it and forget it. No complicated steps.

  • Hands-off cooking method if you’ll be away from home. Just prep in the morning and come home to ready-to-eat ribs.

  • Tenderizes tough meat through long, moist cooking. Rib tips come out fall-off-the-bone tender.

  • Infuses ribs with smoky, robust flavor as they simmer in sauce for hours.

  • Allows you to save time by using less tender ribs. The slow cooker will do the work.

  • Frees up your oven and grill for other recipes if cooking large batches for gatherings,

  • Keeps your kitchen cool instead of heating up the oven.

Choosing the Right Cut of Ribs

For the best results, look for meaty pork spare ribs or rib tips. Baby back ribs tend to get too soft and fall apart after hours of slow cooking.

  • Estimate 1 pound of rib tips per person if serving as a main dish. Go lighter if they are an appetizer.

  • Look for ribs with plenty of meat and marbling – this keeps them moist during the long cooking time.

  • Avoid extremely fatty rib tips, as you’ll have to remove excess fat.

  • Meat should look red and fresh, not brown or dried out.

Easy Seasoning Blend for Pork Rib Tips

All you need is a simple homemade dry rub to perfectly season the ribs before slow cooking.

Whisk together in a small bowl:

  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar or honey
  • 1-2 tablespoons chili powder (add more or less to preference)
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon each garlic powder and onion powder

You can also play around with 1/2 teaspoon of cumin, paprika, oregano, or cayenne pepper to change up the flavors.

This easy blend adds sweetness, spice, and intensified pork flavor.

How to Prepare Rib Tips for the Slow Cooker

Prep is quick – simply coat the ribs all over with the seasoning blend:

  • Pat pork rib tips dry with paper towels for better browning.

  • Apply an even layer of the dry rub on all sides, gently pressing so it adheres.

  • Let the coated ribs rest for 10-15 minutes before cooking. This allows the seasoning to penetrate the meat.

  • No need to sear the ribs first – the dry spices add plenty of flavor.

Crock Pot Cooking Instructions

With ribs prepped, you’re ready to slow cook:

  • Place the seasoned ribs in your slow cooker stoneware. Try to lay them flat in a single layer.

  • Add 1/2 cup water or broth to the bottom of the cooker to keep things moist.

  • Cook the ribs on LOW for 6-8 hours until extremely tender.

  • For the last 1-2 hours of cooking, baste ribs with barbecue sauce. Sweet and tangy flavors balance the spice rub.

  • Once cooked, carefully remove ribs from the cooker. Discard any fat drippings in the liquid

  • Apply more barbecue sauce and broil for 2-3 minutes to caramelize the outside.

  • Allow ribs to rest for 5-10 minutes before serving. Dig in and enjoy!

The long, low cooking gives ribs an irresistible texture. The meat should shred easily when pulled with a fork.

Crock Pot Rib Tips Recipe Variations

Once you master the basics, play around with these tasty recipe variations:

  • Cola or Dr. Pepper – Pour in 12 oz of soda for extra moistness and caramelized flavor.

  • Liquid Smoke – Add a dash of liquid smoke when cooking for an intense smoky essence.

  • Sriracha or Hot Sauce – Incorporate hot sauce or sriracha into the barbecue sauce for spicy ribs.

  • Beer – Use a 12 oz bottle of beer instead of broth in the cooker. Lager or stout works well.

  • Pineapple Juice – Replace the broth with pineapple juice for tropical sweetness.

  • Cherry Cola – Combining cola and cherry preserves adds tangy sweetness.

  • Asian Flavors – Swap barbecue sauce for hoisin, chili garlic paste, rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, ginger, and garlic.

The possibilities are endless for customizing the flavors to match your taste preferences.

Serving Suggestions for Crock Pot Rib Tips

Pork rib tips straight from the slow cooker are hard to beat. But here are some tasty ways to serve them:

  • On buns as tender pulled pork sandwiches with pickle chips and coleslaw.

  • Chopped and tossed with barbecue baked beans, pasta salad or potato salad.

  • Piled high over cornbread, rice, mashed potatoes or mac and cheese.

  • Alongside collard greens, cornbread muffins, and macaroni salad for a Southern feast.

  • On kabobs or skewers alternated with peppers, onions, pineapple and bacon.

  • With cornbread waffles or pancakes, eggs, and hashbrowns for a rib breakfast.

  • As an appetizer sprinkled with green onions and sesame seeds. Provide wet wipes!

The delicious possibilities are endless. Just be sure to have plenty of napkins on hand!

Storing and Freezing Leftover Crock Pot Rib Tips

With such tender meat, rib tips rarely go to waste! But leftovers can be kept for several days:

  • Let ribs cool completely, then refrigerate in an airtight container for up 3-4 days.

  • Reheat gently in the microwave with a splash of water or sauce to moisten them.

  • Freeze cooked rib tips up to 2-3 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge before reheating.

  • Chop or shred rib meat and freeze in portions for quick sandwiches or to mix into baked beans, soups, etc.

  • Make bone broth with leftover bones. Simmer bones for 8-12 hours to extract nutrients and rich flavor.

Enjoy rib tip leftovers in stir fries, omelets, enchiladas or pasta dishes. The tender meat adds flavor to anything!

Tips for the Best Crock Pot Rib Tips

Here are some helpful tips to ensure your ribs turn out perfect:

  • Trim off and discard any loose fat or membranes for cleaner eating.

  • Cut rib racks into 2-3 portions to fit better in the slow cooker.

  • Layer ribs meaty side up so the underside bastes in juices as it cooks.

  • Add sauce in the last hour or two so it doesn’t burn.

  • Let ribs rest 5 minutes before cutting so juices redistribute into the meat.

  • Check temps early and extend cook time if needed to reach fall-off-the-bone texture.

  • Add honey to the barbecue sauce to help it caramelize under the broiler.

With minimal effort, you’ll enjoy the most lip-smacking, tender and flavorful pork rib tips from your crock pot. Satisfy any barbecue craving any night of the week with this easy set it and forget it recipe!

How to Make BBQ Rib Tips in a Crock Pot or Slow Cooker


Do you need to add liquid to a crock pot when cooking pork?

Do You Need to Add Liquid? You do not need to add any liquid to the crock pot for this recipe. The pork will release moisture as it cooks.

Is it better to cook pork in a crock pot on high or low?

Cook slowly: pork loin roast is a lean cut of meat so it needs to be cooked low and slow to give the protein time to break down. You don’t want to cook on high because this setting will boil the pork loin instead of braise it. Butter: adds richness and flavor to an otherwise extremely lean pork.

What is the difference between pork ribs and pork rib tips?

The rib tip is a short section that comes off the spare ribs when a butcher is making a more squared off cut. Some customers and restaurants like to have just the rib section when they do barbeque and request the spare rib to be trimmed. The bottom portion that gets trimmed off is where the rib tips come from.

Can you cook ribs in a slow cooker without liquid?

Don’t worry that the ribs go into the slow cooker without liquid; the heat is gentle enough that the ribs do not burn, and the meat releases liquid as it cooks, so it braises in its own spiced juices.

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